Several Ramotswa residents on Tuesday morning took to social media to describe how they were woken up by a loud bang that they would later learn was caused by thugs bombing a Stanbic Bank Automated Teller Machine (ATM) at Engen filling station.

Residents add that soon after the blast, their peace was taken away by sounds of gunshots which lasted for some minutes, with the roaring noise of a police helicopter later adding to their sleeplessness until the break of dawn when information started trickling in on what had really happened.

Police confirm the incident, saying the blast that shook the village at 02:04am was of thieves who used powerful explosives to open up the ATM whereupon they made away with over P50 000 and over R80 000. Acting Station Commander at Ramotswa Police, Assistant Superintendent Brendy Maila revealed that it was not long after about P300 000 and R84 000 had been loaded into the ATM, and that just over P250 000 and around R1 400 was recovered by the police and bank officials from the rubble that was left behind.

Four petrol attendants were forced inside the shop at the filling station and made to lie facedown on the floor while the robbers went about their business of blasting the ATM outside, and when the police arrived about five minutes after the explosion, the robbers fired at them, with the police returning fire but lost the robbers who then disappeared into darkness.

“They were shooting from behind a wall while the police kept a safe distance from where they too were firing shots. Somehow in that shootout, the thieves sneaked away and the police could not make out their exact whereabouts in that darkness especially with the added danger of their weapons,” Maila told The Midweek Sun, adding that a security guard was discovered inside the ruined nearby guard room, half buried in the rubble of bricks from the blast. He was taken to hospital with injuries but was later discharged. At press time on Tuesday afternoon, there was no trace of the robbers as investigations continue.

Stanbic’s Country Head in the bank’s Investigative and Fraud Risk Unit Bickie Mbenge expressed regret that the community was bound to suffer for services as it would take months before the ATM could be replaced. The machines, he said, cost a lot of money to acquire and set up and that even as the bank would want to help residents in the shortest possible time, the whole planning around the matter will not take a short time. The ATM in Ramotswa, Mbenge said, was the fourth of their bank to be blasted with others meeting the same fate in Oodi, Metsimotlhabe and Mmadinare.